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Breath & Shadow

Summer 2018 - Vol. 15, Issue 3

"The Genie of the Hearing Aid"

written by

Elizabeth Bingham

Ryan’s head felt like it was splitting in two. Things that he never remembered
making so much noise – seat belts clicking, doors shutting, chairs scraping, coughs and sneezes – were plunging him into his own personal hell. The only thing he couldn’t seem to hear better were the stupid sounds coming out of people’s stupid mouths. And the whistling was awful. Every time he smiled, clenched his jaw, or wiggled his ears, his left hearing aid let out a piercing squeal as loud as a fire alarm.m Ryan couldn’t wait to take them both out.

When he and his mother arrived home in the big silver Renault, Ryan rushed
through the door, ran down to the garden where his mother couldn’t see him, collapsed on the grass and ripped out his hearing aids with a massive sigh of relief.

The left hearing aid began to shake in his hand. Ryan dropped it in surprise.
The hearing aid turned blue and started shaking even more violently. It emitted an
enormous puff of smoke. After a few seconds the smoke began to clear and a blue
coloured man emerged from the mist.

“I am the genie of the hearing aid!” He signed.

Ryan’s eyes almost popped out of his head.

“That’s ridiculous,” he signed back. “Genies don’t exist. And if they did, they
wouldn’t live in hearing aids.”

The genie stared right back at Ryan.

“Then how do you explain this?”

“I don’t know. Who are you? Why are you here?”

“It’s all because of Aladdin’s Deaf brother.”

“What? Aladdin had a Deaf brother?”

“Yes. No one ever knows about Aladdin’s Deaf brother.”

“Tell me about him.”

The genie sat cross-legged in the grass, bringing himself level with Ryan. He had
a heavy-looking chain around his neck and manacles round his wrists, but otherwise he was made up of nothing more than blue smoke, with pearly white and black smoke for eyes and teeth.

“His name was Karim,” the genie began. “He was jealous that Aladdin had a genie
– he wanted one himself. So Aladdin got his servants and sorcerers to hunt far and
wide for a Deaf genie who could communicate with Karim in sign language. I was
happily minding my own business until they picked me up and stuffed me in an ear

The genie sighed heavily and rolled his eyes.

“And after all that fuss he never used his wishes!” he carried on. “Eventually Karim
died, and the ear trumpet was destroyed. But that didn’t release me from my bond – I
got teleported to another ear trumpet, then another. Then suddenly they stopped

making ear trumpets and it was hearing aids. First those massive ones that were nice
and roomy. Then slightly smaller ones. And before I knew it they were getting smaller
and smaller and smaller until…”

The genie yawned and stretched.

“My God, it’s so nice to stretch my arms. I’ve been cooped up in these hearing aids
for years. You wouldn’t believe the things I’ve been through – the earwax I’ve seen, the toilets I’ve fallen into, the sofas I’ve been brushed under…”

“What? They told me these things were brand new. Liars!”

“And have I had a signing owner in all those years? No. Never.”

Ryan wasn’t watching. He was still digesting the genie’s revelation about the
history of his hearing aid.

“Toilets!? Bleeeugh.”

The genie waved his hand in Ryan’s face – he spluttered and choked on the blue,
sulfurous smoke.

“Pay attention. These are dark dark days, my boy. If you don’t release me, I may
never be free.”

“What? Why?”

“Because I’m Deaf! I don’t speak. And hardly anyone signs these days. I’ve given
up on appearing to elderly deaf people – the number of heart attacks I’ve caused is

“Ok, fine. What do you want me to do?”

“I need you to make three wishes.”

“Three wishes?”

“Yes. Sharpish, please. Or I’ll whistle in your ear for as long as I’m stuck in this

“That was you? I thought it was broken.”

“Yes – that was me – and don’t you forget it.”

Ryan thought to himself for a few minutes. What did he want more than anything

“I can give you anything.” The genie signed. “Anything at all.”

“I know,” Ryan signed. “I want a swimming pool.”


“Done!” The genie clapped his hands.

A strong wind blew into the garden. The turf started rising up from the ground, and
with it, large chunks of soil. The genie tapped his index fingers together three times.
More and more soil flew up, spinning round and round in a spiral, flying faster and faster until suddenly it all disappeared. All that remained was a gaping hole in the garden.


Layers of concrete and plastic and tiny tiles lined the hole, piling on top of each
other in a blur of white, gray, gold and blue. Finally, a gargantuan jet of water thundered down from the sky. It filled the empty pool in a matter of seconds.


Ryan’s pool was finished. It was huge, and it was beautiful – tiled in glistening
blue, edged with pure gold lining, decorated with ornamental waterfalls. It had a Jacuzzi, a paddling section and – was that a wave machine?

“Happy?” The genie asked. Ryan’s jaw dropped.

“Wow. It’s amazing!”

“Glad you like it. Wish number two?”

“Hold on.”

Ryan scratched his head. The genie tapped his feet impatiently.

“This pool is lovely,” Ryan signed. “But it would be boring to swim here all by
myself. Can you bring all my Deaf friends here?”

“Done!” The genie clapped his hands.

In a puff of blue smoke, Ryan’s friends from his Deaf boarding school appeared.
Twenty of them – from all corners of the country – Yorkshire, Scotland, Wales, Devon,
London... All dressed in swimming trunks and costumes.

At first, they were all too stunned to sign a word. Eventually, one of them saw the
pool and pointed it out to the others, shrieking in excitement. A few others spotted the
genie and stepped back in fear. Ryan calmed them all down – he explained everything.

“Wow!” Ryan’s best friend Tim signed, making a run for the pool.

“Wait,” Ryan signed. “Hearing aids and cochlear?” He grabbed a bucket from
inside the house. His friends chucked their hearing devices into the bucket on their way to the pool. One after the other, they all ran, jumped and dived in.

After a few minutes of happy swimming, splashing and excited signing – they all
had a lot to catch up on – Ryan felt a tap on the shoulder. It was the genie.

“What?” Ryan signed.

“Wish number three?”

“Later!” Ryan turned back to the pool.

The genie tapped him on the shoulder again.

“Oh, fine!”

“Slides would be good. And surfboards for the wave machine,” signed someone from the other side of the pool.

“Slides and surfboards?” Ryan asked.

“Done!” The genie clapped his hands for a third and final time.

Several two story tall flumes materialized on the far side of the pool. A rack of
multi-colored surfboards appeared by the house. Ryan pulled himself out of the water
and bolted straight for the nearest slide.

“Bye bye genie!” He signed as he went. The genie saluted and dissolved into thin

Ryan whizzed down the slide, landing with a monumental splash. When he
surfaced, he saw that his friends were being strangely quiet. No one was signing.
Everyone was standing still in the water. It didn’t take Ryan long to work out why. His
Mum had come out to see what was going on. She was standing by the garden door,
her face paler than milk.

“What? How?” She signed.

“A genie came.” Ryan used his voice. “Gave me three wishes.”

Ryan’s mother opened her mouth, about to say that genies don’t exist. But, failing
to find any other explanation for how a swimming pool had appeared in her garden in
the space of half an hour, she shut it.

“A genie. Right.” She mouthed. She exhaled slowly.

“But... why you not ask something useful?” She signed falteringly. “Like… why you
not ask not be deaf, be hearing? Why ask this?”

She gestured limply at the pool.

Ryan looked around at his friends. It was half way through the summer holidays,
and he’d been missing them all badly. He didn’t regret the way he’d spent his wishes
one bit. He looked back at his Mum, signing:

“This is what I want.”

Elizabeth Bingham is a TV Researcher currently working on See Hear, a BBC 2
magazine programme for deaf and hard of hearing people in the UK. She grew up in
London and studied English Literature at the universities of York and Oxford.

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